Interview with Melissa McKinstry by Jane Newkirk
Melissa’s reads her poem “Showering My Son,” originally posted in Medmic on May 27, 2023.
Jane reads an exerpt from Melissa’s poem “Ghost Writer,” which originally appeared in the Tahoma Literary Review, Issue 23, Summer 2022
–after Dorianne Laux
My son sleeps in his bed
or upright in his chair, a curve in his spine
from his neck to his hips, his legs akimbo
while he drools, Phenobarbital and Ativan
flowing, pushed and pumped inside him, his face
shaped from dough, a tear leaking slowly
from the blue of his eye. My son
is often a ghost above this world. Sometimes
he’s paled to gray beside me, in my arms,
beyond my reach. Now I feel his soft hand
near my hand late afternoons, oxygen
pinking his skin as I write every poem,
whispering, Will this ever end? I want it to end.
I remember every time
he’s risen or sunk, twitched
before a seizure, and now
I see how his whole life has been a visitation,
one he didn’t choose for himself–
my son, and me like a Ouija board, occult
tool to keep calling him back, a tension
much like loose syntax, but vibrating
with live implications, an unspooling spring
of subordinate clauses. I hold him here,
like he holds me here. He is my author,
poet, and lyricist, penning me in
word by word, the paragraph
that introduced my theme,
my style, my tone, my voice.
He offered himself as a mentor–his genes
snapped, his DNA cracked, his eyes and brow,
crooked nose and tiny mouth, and when my body
from which his was made
slips into a pale silence, he’ll still
too. He’ll wind up the long lines,
the slant-rhymed couplets, last elegy
for our duet, write only in the ink
of invisibility, the consonants disappearing him
with their ascenders and descenders, the memoir
we wrote together, our tangle of phonemes
stopped, just sibilant echoes
of letters and scripture remaining, the deepest
chapters, the heavy tomes splayed wide
so the story we were might find tongue.
For Further Reading, Other Poets Who Parent Children with Complex Medical Conditions, Disability, or Neurodiversity:
Burwick, Kimberly. Brightword. Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2019.
de la Paz, Oliver. The Boy in the Labyrinth. University of Akron Press, 2019.
Dempster, Brian Komei. Seize. Four Way Books, 2020.
Franklin, Jennifer. No Small Gift. Four Way Books, 2018.
Laméris, Danusha. The Moons of August. Autumn House, 2014.
McPherson, Sandra. The Space Between Birds. Wesleyan University Press, 1996.
Shaughnessy, Brenda. Our Andromeda. Copper Canyon Press, 2012.
Teicher, Craig Morgan. The Trembling Answers. BOA Editions, Ltd., 2017.
Melissa McKinstry holds an MFA in poetry from Pacific University. Her poems have been nominated for Best of the Net, a Pushcart Prize, and Orison’s Best Spiritual Literature, and appear in Rattle, Alaska Quarterly Review, Rust & Moth, December, Tahoma Literary Review, SWWIM, Nimrod International, and Beloit Poetry Journal. Find her at her website: https://www.melissamckinstry.com/
Jane Newkirk is the poetry editor at Medmic. Her poems have appeared in Empty House Press, The Shore, Naugatuck River Review, The Night Heron Barks, Intima, and others. In 2019, her creative nonfiction was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is an occupational therapist in Jackson, Mississippi.